10/17/2006 11:00PM

Better Talk Now an outsider again


Trainer Graham Motion has been having some deja vu moments about the Breeders' Cup Turf with Better Talk Now, the venerable gelding who upset the race two years ago in Texas. With a relatively small field likely for the Turf this year, like in 2004, Motion has a feeling that things might possibly unfold in his favor once more.

"It looks like there will be quite a bit of pace in there, and I strongly feel that in these mile-and-a-half races, it's all about the trip," Motion said Wednesday from the Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland, where Better Talk Now is based. "And I feel like when we get the right kind of trip, we can be very competitive."

Better Talk Now, owned by Bushwood Stables, was 27-1 when he captured the 2004 Turf over heavily favored Kitten's Joy and just six other starters at Lone Star Park. Motion, who had strongly considered running Better Talk Now in the $2 million Canadian International on Sunday at Woodbine, said he and the ownership partners in Bushwood decided Tuesday that taking another shot at the Turf was a prudent move.

No more than 10 horses appear likely for the $3 million Turf, although European horses such as Hurricane Run and David Junior, while doubtful to run, have not been completely eliminated from consideration, according to the International Racing Bureau in England. IRB spokesman Alastair Donald said French trainer Andre Fabre has announced that he probably will run Shirocco, the defending Turf champion, but also might pre-enter Hurricane Run, although Hurricane Run is far more likely to run later in the month in the Japan Cup. As for David Junior, trainer Brian Meehan has said he is far more probable for the BC Classic and that the stable will be represented in the Turf by the 3-year-old Red Rocks.

While field composition will become clearer by Wednesday, when pre-entries are released, the pecking order of the Turf appears set, with the likely favorites being English Channel, Cacique, and The Tin Man. Meanwhile, Better Talk Now will be relegated to outsider status again.

"It's a very similar situation to what it was a couple of years ago," said Motion. "We won it when we were 27-1, so why wouldn't we do it this year? He's just as good now, if not better. He's matured and mellowed, and he's training extremely well."

Bushwood and Motion frequently used a "rabbit" named Shake the Bank to help set up Better Talk Now's late kick, so Motion chuckled when talking about how trainer Todd Pletcher is planning to do the same sort of thing this year in the Turf. Pletcher recently won the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont with English Channel after another of his horses, Icy Atlantic, set the pace, and Pletcher confirmed last week that he likely will try the same tactics in the Turf. The obvious intent is to ensure a brisk pace for English Channel while decreasing the chances that The Tin Man, who led throughout in winning the Aug. 12 Arlington Million over Cacique and English Channel, will have things his own way.

"Todd's supplying the rabbit," said Motion. "For once we don't have to do the honors."

The cost to pre-enter the Turf is $30,000, and the cost to start is $45,000. James Scatuorchio, the owner of English Channel, privately purchased Icy Atlantic before the Joe Hirsch from breeder-owner Arthur Appleton.

Better Talk Now was one of a handful of Turf prospects to have a serious workout last weekend when he breezed a half-mile in 50.60 seconds Friday over the Fair Hill turf course.

In other notable works, Cacique, who was shipped recently from Belmont Park to Keeneland, breezed six furlongs in 1:13.60 Sunday over the main Polytrack surface; The Tin Man sped five furlongs in 59.20 seconds, handily, over the Santa Anita main track Sunday; and T. H. Approval also went five furlongs Sunday at Santa Anita, finishing in 1:00.60.

While Breeders' Cup officials obviously would like to have more than 10 or so for the Turf, they are hindered by what has become a limited crop of top-class 1 1/2-mile horses from Europe.

Additional candidates from North America are in short supply, too, and it didn't help that the Canadian International became the preferred option for Go Deputy, Relaxed Gesture, and several others who might otherwise have filled out the Turf as longshots.

Also, Artiste Royal, third behind The Tin Man and T. H. Approval in the Sept. 30 Clement Hirsch, is expected to run back Saturday in the Carleton F. Burke at Santa Anita, while trainer Christophe Clement said Wednesday that he plans to run Revved Up, the recent winner of the Sycamore BC at Keeneland, in the Nov. 11 Bonnie Heath Turf Cup at Calder.